Game: Cottage Garden
Publisher: Edition Spielweise
Designer: Uwe Rosenburg
Cottage Gardens is a 1-4 player tile game in which you collect different shapes of flower beds to add to your garden. Cottage Garden is very much a continuation of Patchwork, but expanded to take more players, and with the addition of kittens, which makes everything better! Both games feature square grids which you fill up with various shapes of tiles, one of the key differences is that Cottage garden expects you to complete multiple grids many times over, while Patchwork gives you one grid which is near-impossible to complete before time runs out.
In Cottage Garden there is a central board with a dice that moves around it as play goes on, you can only ever take tiles from the row the dice is on during your turn. Should you only have 1 option on your row then you get to refill the row with flower patches from the wheelbarrow track, though at any time you can use a kitten to do this regardless of how full the row is. Every time the dice makes a full rotation of the board you turn it up one, once the dice is on 6 the game is over... though you can push on a little bit if you are willing accept a penalty. The central board works well, it gives space for strategic options, as you may want to leave tiles that you want for now as they will be in a future row of yours. However it’s far more laid-back than Patchwork, partially because you always know which rows will be yours, and partially because kitten use can get you out of a bad situation.
|Cottage garden set up and ready to play, on the left is a wheelbarrow that fetches the new plant tiles once the central board is empty. You don't *have* to put the tiles in it and roll them to the board... but it's heavily encouraged!|
The garden grids which you place tiles on are all double sided and have a varying amount of the 2 scoring elements in the game: plant pots and planters. Every time you complete a garden grid you get to move one of the 3 orange tokens up the score track equal to the amount of plant pots on show, and a blue marker equal to the number of planters. Planters are rarer than plantpots, but are worth 2 points each, that being said the final place on the score track is a big jump for both colours. There’s a minor bonus for getting one marker to the end of the score track first and second, but there are also bonus kittens for getting each marker a little way along and a free flower pot token for getting all of the markers of each colour off of the starting point, so you have to make a choice between racing to the end, or collecting multiple little bonuses.
|The garden on the right has just been completed, a cat was called in the fill the last slot, though if I wanted to I could have used another turn to get a flowerpot tile instead.|
Part of what makes Cottage Garden feel more laid back than Patchwork is the kittens, you can use a kitten to instantly fill a 1x1 spot on your garden grid, which is very useful when you selection available to you isn’t quite right. You get a number of kittens as you play, but they are rare enough that you don’t want to use them too regularly and find yourself without, however if you have time to burn or not kittens to spare you can spend your turn picking up a flower pot, theses are 1x1 tiles too, but given that other tiles in the game can be six times as big it’s very time inefficient to rely on these too much. Between kittens, flowerpots, and the fact that you are working on 2 plots at a time it’s almost impossible to find yourself in a situation that you can’t remedy.
I don’t feel the question you should be asking yourself is “should I be buying Cottage Garden”, it should be “should I buy Cottage Garden, or Patchwork?”. There isn’t a hard answer to that, the two are similar enough that I don’t think you can warrant owning both, but different enough that each person will have their preference. Patchwork is better for the strategic gamer, who wants to go up against another person it a battle of wits... and knitting. Cottage garden is more of a casual experience, it’s enjoyable for everyone from start to finish because no-one can really be attacked, you all do your own thing, with a minimum amount of interaction. Personally I prefer Cottage Garden, it really is a superb game to sit back and relax with.